Sukhothai

Centuries old Buddha figures in the Historical Park

Sukhothai (สุโขทัย) is a small city (population 35,713) in Lower Northern Thailand, 427 kilometres north of Bangkok. Its attraction lies in the ruins of the ancient city Sukhothai, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name translates as "the dawn of happiness".

Understand

History

Ancient Sukhothai was the first capital of the Sukhothai Kingdom, a long arc of territory that ran through what is today's Laos and western Thailand as far as the Malay states. The kingdom was established in 1238 by Phokhun Si Intharathit, the founder of the Phra Ruang dynasty. It was the state that eventually had the greatest influence on the later Siamese and Thai kingdoms. Traditional Thai history has it that Ramkhamhaeng the Great, the third ruler of the Phra Ruang dynasty, developed the capital at Sukhothai. He is also venerated as being the inventor of the Thai alphabet and being an all-round role model for Thailand's politics, monarchy, and religion.

Today

The province's temples and monuments have been restored and the UNESCO-listed Sukhothai Historical Park covers a wide area with numerous sites. Other interesting places include Ramkhamhaeng National Museum, Ramkhamhaeng National Park, Sri Satchanalai National Park, and The Royal Palace and Wat Mahathat.

Climate

While enjoyable all year, Sukhothai is most comfortable during the cooler weather of Nov-Feb.

Get in

By plane

Bangkok Airways has daily flights from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) to Sukhothai Airport (THS), which then continues on to Lampang (LPT). Fares from/to Bangkok start from 1,700 baht (1 hour 20 minutes), from/to Lampang: from 1,100 baht (around 40 minutes).

By train

Take the (express) train (7 hr from Bangkok or Chiang Mai) to Phitsanulok and go by bus from there (1 hour). A tuk-tuk to the bus station costs 60 baht.

By bus

Sukhothai only has a small bus station, but the city can be easily reached from all points. The bus station is out of town and should cost you 50-60 baht to get into town by tuk-tuk(40 mototaxi)

From Bangkok

There are direct buses from Bangkok Mo Chit Terminal and takes 7 hr, including some stops at bus terminals of major cities on the way.

At Mo Chit Wintour Travel charges 326 baht per person for a first class air-con bus. It takes about 6 hr.

From Chiang Mai

Buses from the main bus terminal take about 4 hours. The cheaper local buses make many stops and take about 5 hours.

From Mae Sot

Minibuses run regularly from the station behind the market. The journey takes about 3 hours, passing through Tak on the way. 130 baht.

From Phitsanulok

Buses operate approximately every 45 minutes from the main bus terminal until approximately 18:00 and take about 1 hour for the 58 km trip. These are often crowded so be waiting early for the bus if you'd like to get a seat. 43 baht.

If you're feeling rich you can get a tuk-tuk directly which costs 1,000 baht from the train station (one of the fixed prices posted on a sign in front of the station).

Get around

It's an easy 15-minute walk from the bus station into New Sukothai town along a dirt path in front of the bus station (although the tuk tuk drivers will tell you that it is not possible to walk). To find it, exit the front of the station and walk straight (west) for a few meters until you reach the shops in front of the station. There will be a dirt path leading off to your left (south) that passes by some fields and houses. Follow the path about 500 meters and you will hit a concrete road; continue straight along this road for another 500 meters (you will pass "No. 4 Guesthouse") and you will hit Jarodvithi Thong (Charodwithitong), the main street with many guesthouses, from where you can catch the blue songthaew to Old Sukhothai.

Purple #1 songthaews travel to and from the bus station, which is about 3km out of town. They run the length of Charodwithitong Rd. The fare is 10 baht.

The large blue songthaews to Old Sukhothai leave from a bus stop on Charodwithitong Rd, about 100m west of the bridge(50m west from 7-eleven). It stops about 750m from the entrance to the central zone of the historic park. Fare is 20 baht. Drivers often ask 30 baht from foreigners, but if you insist or start to walk away they should agree for 20 baht.

There are also tuk-tuks, which will try to get 600 baht out of you for a trip to the Old City (main ruins) some 15 km out of town. The correct price is 300 baht and this is for at least a couple of hours. When you have seen the part you are at and want to move further in the same area, the driver takes you there. 600 baht is a fair price for a full day.

See

The old city is a popular tourist attraction, and the site has seen much restoration since the 1960s. It is well maintained, exceptionally clean and well furnished with vendors, though with only a minimum of touts. The heavy restoration is worth noting, since with some ruins and Buddha figures it can lead to a feeling that it is a little over-sanitised, especially in the central zone. The other zones are much less "restored" and trips down unmarked tracks can lead to ruins in their untouched state.
The best way to see the ruins in the Sukhothai National Historic Park is by bicycle. These can be rented from a shop opposite from the main park entrance. It is feasible to walk around the central and northern zones in 6 hours or so. There is also a 40 baht guided tour by electric tram available.
The best time to see the ruins is mornings when it's a little cooler and before the buses arrive, at noon when they have lunch, or after 16:00.
The whole site covers an area of approximately 70 square kilometres (~27 square miles) and is divided into multiple zones. The central zone contains the majority of the ruins and a museum. Maps are free at the ticket office.
  • Central zone - It contains 11 ruins in 3 square kilometres, interspersed with moats, lakes and bridges to some island-bound ruins. Mat Mahathat is one of the most spectacular, with a large seated Buddha figure set amid the pillars of a now-ruined sala, and a central chedi flanked by two standing Buddha figures. Wat Sra Sri also has a large chedi and Buddha figure, but is reached by a bridge to the island. There are some nice views from the other side of the lake.
  • West zone - The West zone is a hilly and forested area that contains over a dozen little visited monuments. The area is located West of the walled old town between the road to Tak (Route 12) and the road through the Or gate in the ancient Western city wall.
Spread out over an area of several kilometers, it contains mostly small monuments in the forest and on hill tops, most of them a single stupa or other structure.
In the days of the Sukhothai empire the area was known as Aranyika. Monks studied the Tripitaka and practised meditation in forest temples. An ancient stone inscription mentions that Ramkhamhaeng, the third King of Sukhothai, visited the area regularly to pay his respects to a Buddha image, believed to be the standing Buddha image of the Wat Saphan Hin.
  • North zone - Wat Phra Phai Luang contains the remains of a number of buildings plus a large prang with stucco reliefs. More impressive is Wat Sri Chum, which contains a massive seated Buddha figure peering through an opening in its enclosure. Look for a stairway on the left as you enter the enclosure; it leads up and behind the Buddha image, though the passage is not always open. Only if you want to have a close look for Wat Phra Phai Luang you need to pay. Every zone has an entrance fee. Admission to each of the zones is 100 baht for Westerners, and 20 baht for Thais plus extra for vehicles, including bicycles (10 baht). A combined ticket (still found in most travel guides) does not exist any more.

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, January 24, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.